Naval Air Station Whidbey Island - Commander, Navy Region Northwest (CNRNW) held a change of command ceremony in Hangar 6 on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, June 25.
Rear Adm. Douglass Biesel relieved Rear Adm. James Symonds as CNRNW at the ceremony. The change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition that formally restates to the officers and enlisted personnel of a command the continuity of the authority of command.
Vice Adm. Denby Starling, II, former commander, Naval Network Warfare Command, was the keynote speaker at the event. Starling has known Symonds for more than 30 years, being stationed with him in the Golden Intruders of Attack Squadron (VA) 128 and the Milestones of VA-196 as well as Symonds serving as the executive officer to Starling on board the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).
“For me to be here on the podium today is really, really special, and Jim (Symonds) and I thank you for letting our paths cross officially one last time,” said Starling.
“(Symonds) is a man of firm conviction and unwavering integrity, has an unerring sense of what is right and a willingness to act on it,” added Starling. “It is these traits that have set him apart as an exceptional leader from (junior officer) to flag (officer).”
Symonds assumed command July 2007 and was presented with the Legion of Merit for his efforts over his tenure. Symonds deferred the credit for his success to the people he worked with for the past three years.
“Thank you, Adm. Starling for jumping into the fray today, for all the kind words and for the insights into our business. Thanks also for recognizing the great works of Navy Region Northwest and the installation staffs through awarding me this medal that really belongs to them,” said Symonds.
In his time as CNRNW, installations under Symond’s purview received multiple awards for energy conservation. He was the driving force behind a regional individual augmentee program to support the fighter and family, oversaw the EA-6B Prowler to EA-18G Growler transition, improved fleet and family readiness programs in housing and service departments and sustained a relationship with local communities according to Starling.
“The Navy has been blessed these past three years to have [Symonds] as one of our leaders and strategic thinkers in shore installation management at a critical time in the short, almost seven-year existence of Navy Installation Command,” said Starling. “I’ve read that you said your role here in the Northwest was to make sure Sailors and their families were satisfied and comfortable with their lives so they could focus on their jobs. Shipmate, without a doubt, mission accomplished.”
“It was easy for the guy in the lead, and there was a whole lot of paddling under the duck. I am very proud of the things these folks have wrought over the past three years,” said Symonds.
“All incredibly impressive and all I had to do was watch, admire and sign my name on the bottom line,” added Symonds.
In addition, CNRNW Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Dave Bisson, presented a letter from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/SW) Rick West stating that Symonds was now a honorary Master Chief Petty Officer.
According to Lt. Patrick Sweeten, Navy Band Northwest (NBNW) director, in recognition of being one of the best and largest supporters of Navy music they’ve ever seen, they wanted to do something special for him at his change of command so NBNW presented Symonds with a custom made conductor’s baton. Symonds then proceeded to conduct the group through “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa.
Biesel is reporting to CNRNW after a tour as commander, Joint Region Marianas. He has formerly been stationed in NRNW as the commanding officer of Naval Submarine Base Bangor, and the first commanding officer of the combined Naval Base Kitsap.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor, privilege and blessing to stand here before you today as commander of Navy Region Northwest. I can hardly believe that the Navy would return me again to the beautiful Northwest. It sure has felt like a homecoming,” said Biesel.
“I look forward to serving with the military and civilians that lead, operate and maintain these great bases. I also look forward to partnering with our community and tribal leaders,” added Biesel. “To the crew of Navy Region Northwest, both military and civilian, I pledge my best. As our Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gary Roughead recently stated, ‘it is a great time to lead.’ As I close, may God bless each of you here today, those that are standing the watch, the United States naval services and this great nation.”